Razer's Class Warfare

May 31, 2018

Razer: Annabel Crabb’s new show packs history with chipper ABC morality

Back In Time For Dinner gets 1000 neoliberal humanist points for simulating (and believing) the rosy history of 1950s Australia.

Helen Razer — Writer and broadcaster

Helen Razer

Writer and broadcaster

Perhaps there is some person with talents to rival those of Annabel Crabb. Perhaps there is one who could radiate that Crabb-type credible warmth on TV. In the unlikely case such a genial authority exists, they shall not serve Our ABC -- that Australian organisation now so estranged from Australian reality, it pretends its new pretend dress-up show Back in Time for Dinner is “factual” programming. No. They shall command all of us on Earth, should this planet survive liberalism to a liberal dystopian future.

Let’s not consider the propagandist potential of Chairman Crabb, but look back instead at last night's debut of that “factual” moment you sensibly elected to miss.

Free Trial

You've hit members-only content.

Sign up for a FREE 21-day trial to keep reading and get the best of Crikey straight to your inbox

By starting a free trial, you agree to accept Crikey’s terms and conditions


Leave a comment

43 thoughts on “Razer: Annabel Crabb’s new show packs history with chipper ABC morality

  1. Paul

    I have the only workable solution to Crabb and that is to turn whatever she is on, off. She makes Gerald Henderson seem sincere when he claims political neutrality.

    The sad thing is that she is not alone and the worst thing is the males are no better.

    I have long believed we should be put out of our misery and the ABC privatized, in the past it would have been a bad thing, now it will make pretty well no difference to its content or the education and information it supplies.

  2. Jennifer Dillon

    Helen, a couple of things:
    1. don’t have any illusions about the median value of Melbourne suburbs, particularly inner city northern suburbs. $1.25m is tragically not in the upper or even middle reaches; and
    2. can we just remember that the coalition is trying to do a “family court” on the ABC – in other words, get rid of it. It doesn’t suit their purposes. It behoves us all to be a little bit supportive of Aunty unless it is complete trash. This program is locally made, pleasant enough (although it didn’t appeal to me and I probably wont watch it), but it really isn’t rubbish or a complete misrepresentation of the times or the people. Be careful what you wish for and think of Lateline!!
    I think there are more worthy targets of your world-weariness?
    Jen Dillon

    1. Helen Razer

      Jen. Another way to view such a show is as a failure of complicity. Most Australians (close to 40 percent of whom now rent) won’t give a hoot about an ABC that fails to serve their needs while preferring to “prove” itself to the Coalition.
      Shows like this (now frequent) and “news” like 730 and podcasts that speak to an elite are just not of interest o those not elite, which is most of us.
      I.e. the ABC is building the case for its own privatisation.
      I would prefer it didn’t, of course. Which is why I point out its uselessness. What the heck is it with a taxpayer funded broadcast service that champions the views of the ruling class, and how can it expect to survive when it offers a majority nothing but empty faux-intellectualism?
      Married at First Sight makes no effort to seem intellectual, save for a few references to neuroscience. Your Todd Samson, on the other hand, pretends that his “rebel” board member is somehow instructive. This sort of broadcast does nothing but fulfil the promise of the right that ABC is a bunch of elites. It clearly is. I want it do be something that serves us, so that we will fight against its sale.

      1. Vasco

        Agree Helen. Trouble with Crabb is she’s another “insider” so she simply cannot play any other game.

      2. Andrea

        I wonder how you define ‘elite’ Helen. I enjoy the ABC generally (this show didn’t interest me) and I am a white woman on a low income with a tradie hubby on a high income who tolerates the ABC for my sake. Is he an elite for having a good income? Am I elite for my taste in TV and/or being white? Is it money, occupation, gender, or race denoting eliteness or a combo of those? Is it being in the public eye? Is Pauline Hanson part of the ‘political elite’ or on the left, Lee Rhiannon? Is Cathy Freeman part of the elite for her extremely high sporting achievements? To me those who have extreme wealth/privilege/public standing/political sway are elite with the aims of preserving their eliteness eg Rupert Murdoch, Putin, megastars in their particular fields possibly, but Annabelle is a TV journalist who may be well paid and respected (possibly not on Crikey) but elite I don’t see it in particular. You give an example of Married at First Sight as a TV show that doesn’t aspire to lofty heights so is at least not hypocritical. Is it more wrong to aspire to some intellectual gravitas while trying to be entertaining, even if it is not either of those for some or lots of people. I don’t think she’s pushing an ‘elitist’ agenda any more than Sophie Monk, she’s making a TV show in the hope it is popular and she’s attempting to give it a more highbrow feel than a commercial network may aim for.

        1. Jim Hart

          Good one, Andrea. I find it worrying that “elite” is almost always used as a pejorative in any kind of public debate.

          1. Andrea

            Thanks Jim. I was beginning to be embarrassed by my comment here because it was a public brainstorm that could have done with more forethought, too I have not seen the show so it was not from a fully informed place, oops. But I don’t consider myself “elite” and I enjoy a lot of ABC shows. Yes, the Right uses elite as an anti-intellectual insult, they condemn the ABC as elitist bs and Helen is doing this in her article, this is why I wanted her to clarify her definition of elite.

  3. klewso

    “…. incapable of any true critique of anything”? Obviously the subject of Labor or Bill Shorten wasn’t on the agenda?

  4. Venise Alstergren

    I must have been living on the wrong planet. The thought of seeing my father riding a bike while wearing a hat is too much to contemplate. But I admit to living in an area with frequent bus and tram public transport.
    Why on earth did Madame Ferrone spend so much time in dealing with the family wash? As for the food segment showing Australian olive oil being dished out from a medicine bottle? Hilarious! Australian olive oil of that era was repulsive. A sort of cross between engine oil and cod liver oil. It wasn’t until the light olive oils from Italy started arriving that it was safe to cook Italian dishes.
    Annabel Crabb gets on my quince. If I see she’s part of the program I usually turn off. I know I will see a woman whose 1950s style of dressing is appalling, who appears to fish in a bowl of a relevant era but whose repeated dives dredge nothing more that surface detritus.

    1. GF50

      Take 5 million stars!

  5. Richard Laslett

    does Helen Razer ever like anything? this show is what it is, not totally believable but a bit of whimsical fun. and lets not forget those were the days when people dressed in suits to leave the house even to go to work in other industries.

    1. Helen Razer

      Helen Razer likes things. DO you really subscribe to Crikey to read what these are?
      The show explicitly states its aim, which I explicitly restate in the article. It is “factual” programming which seeks to show us how we have changed as Australians through the filter of dinner.
      It doesn’t. It is rot.
      PS Last week, I “liked” David Graeber’s book on BS jobs.

      1. Marilyn

        WEll I actually grew up in the 1950’s, unlike you Helen. It was a lot as shown and others my age agree. There was the old ice box, the first kerosene fridge we had which was sheer luxury ( when I was 4 we cooled food with wet hessian), we had no aircon, I used to have to stir the copper washing tub and use the old wringer, we were still using an old wringer machine in 1965 by the way. What the program didn’t show was how bored we all were and how often dad was out at the pub till 6.
        We were dirt poor in Australia in the 1950’s, it was not that long after a crippling depression and drought that was all over in 1972 when you were 4 and I was 19 and just earned the right to vote.

      2. Richard Laslett

        I do subscribe to Crikey in order for the news being accurate and articles not being so one sided and when one dares question they get pilloried, so I EXPLICITY state I will not read another article by you as your attitude is rather sad.

        1. Richard Laslett

          and by the way I was born in 1950 and agree with the issues raised. they may be glossy and manufactured but they were real

  6. crakeka

    I was there
    My father rode to work on a pushbike dressed in a suit and wearing a hat. Washing, cooking, shopping and domestic skills were pretty much as portrayed.
    What was different was no one was made to actually eat tripe in Crabbe’s series. Lol

  7. Dog's Breakfast

    Gently scathing without being bitchy, enjoyed it HR.

    Wouldn’t have watched this in a pink fit, but I think I saw an ad for it some time or another. I don’t watch ABC that much these days, it’s hard-hitting journalism is now a soft sell opportunity for any politician, except if they get on Barrie Cassidy’s show and have the intelligence of a Kelly O’Dwyer.

    I like Annabel. She is eminently likable, but I remember her moving into the Gallery with her dreads and thought ‘that’s what those old white males, and a few females, need’. Someone almost two generations removed with a bit of anarchist about her. Time has shown her mature into a very staid lady indeed.

    And I have to agree with your general political observations HR. There’s nobody in there shaking the tree except for right wing nut jobs given air time, for the sake of balance, and nobody in their right mind can watch them. Where is the reality?

    Those times were hard, but not so much from the lack of appliances, more from the inward, conservative, Ming-ruled, white Australia, no immigrants, boring food etc.

    Did they have to eat chokos and brussel sprouts, oh lord, a penance that nobody deserves.

  8. Sweeney Julanne

    It was in the 50s that I first heard the word ENVIRONMENT when a writer called Judith Wright gave lunch hour talks at Qld Uni where I had a Commonwealth Scholarship in return for teaching after graduation. It was in the 50s that an Education lecturer Dr Max Poulter documented the plight of ABORIGINAL Australians, opening our eyes to a dark history we had never heard of despite our high marks in the Senior exam. Later in the 50s I remember crossing the road in Cairns to avoid NEW AUSTRALIANS whom I feared.They were setting up a coffee shop and attracting lonely cane cutters. What I did recognise in the ABC program was the day a kerosine fridge replaced the ice box ; also the ironic focus on the word TRIPE — though in the 40s I loved my mother’s delicious tripe with parsley in white sauce.

  9. Sutton Hamilton

    Welcome to winter the Negative Brigade. Annabel Crabb may annoy Helen and her revolutionary cadre (of 2, 3?) but Helen has as much warmth and credibility as Jadis the White Witch. I prefer cosy and Aslan, trimmed of the Xtianity… As a bloke who was born in 1950 this program brought memories flooding back – my Mum going back to journalism when (and only when) I started school: the appalling food of 1955 on: no TV (in my case until 1970 – no great harm done but I appreciate it now) and I look forward to the unrolling of successive decades. I will be reading the Razer critique and looking to find merit therein, probably in vain. And for the love of Mike what would TV look like without the ABC?

  10. JMNO

    I watched the program and had mixed feelings about it but it did bring back memories as I remember the latter part of the 50s. I am not sure that tripe was a universal choice of meal. My parents liked it and so Mum tried to serve her 5 children tripe and onions in white sauce, but this was in the early to mid-sixties and none of us ate it.
    Washing did take a long time. There was a stage when Mum washed 19 cloth nappies a day for 3 small boys.This was in an agitator-style washing machine and electric wringer and. involved washing with soap in the machine, putting the clothes through the wringer into rinsing water and then putting them through the wringer again. It was long, hard work and every day. Ironing wasn’t that easy either. No drip-dry clothes or wrinkle-free synthetics.
    However my father helped with the chores and didn’t dine alone and whilst we were not rich, we did have a car. However he used the car and Mum used to walk to the local shops with 3 small boys to do the shopping.
    Betty Friedan’s ‘Feminine Mystique’ is a bit on the wordy side but describes the impact of life in the 50s and 60s on women who were expected to stay at home and look after their families and enjoy all the new labour saving devices like mix masters and vacuum cleaners in their lovely new modern homes – quiet desperation at the thought ‘is this all there is to life?”

Leave a comment

Share this article with a friend

Just fill out the fields below and we'll send your friend a link to this article along with a message from you.

Your details

Your friend's details